Agricultural Supply Chains in Africa: Strategies for Optimizing

The agricultural industry in Africa is in many ways broken, and optimizing its numerous supply chains might just be how we fix it.

Although it is broken, it is still one of the most important industries on the continent. According to the United Nations, Africa has 65% of arable lands worldwide. Little wonder, over 50% of the GDP on the continent is from the industry.

It is also one of the largest industries on the continent, and by 2030, it is projected to be over a trillion dollars. But there are over a billion people to feed on the continent; unfortunately, it still falls short.

There are many reasons why the Agricultural industry on the continent is broken. There is the waste element—over 15% of post-harvest gets wasted.

The cost of getting it to the consumer is so astronomical that small farmers are left with so little margins that they cannot reinvest into the business.

Another issue plaguing the industry is that many food processing factories are forced to produce at less capacity because of a lack of access to products.

So, an industry with so much potential is underserving the population so much that they have to rely on imports to meet up. All these compounds a high cost of food to the consumer.


How Can Optimized Supply Chains Fix the Agricultural Industry in Africa?

The main problem with the Agricultural industry on the continent is access.

Farmers are having difficulties getting their produce to the market on time, and factories do not have enough to produce.

However, with such a massive industry, many of the population is still unfed.

This is why a robust and resilient supply chain matters to the industry. With an effective or optimized supply chain, this access will be solved.

For instance, farmers can get their produce to the market on time and in good condition, improving the shelf life and reducing post-harvest waste.

Major food processing plants can get all the food they need on time, helping them maximize infrastructure, ultimately leading to cost reductions for the consumer.


Strategies For Optimizing Agricultural Supply Chains in Africa

Four main strategies could be employed to optimize the Agricultural supply chain.

1. Making Cold Chain Logistics More Common

Let’s face it: most agricultural products are perishable, constituting much waste when a delay occurs.

But what if there was a way to preserve these foods and elongate their shelf life? Think of the possibilities for farmers.

They can minimize waste and sell most, if not all, of their produce. Luckily, there is a way to ensure this. The problem is that it is very uncommon on the continent.

What is cold chain logistics?

It is the safe and efficient transport of perishable goods from source to destination.

By investing more in cold chain logistics, businesses have more to work with, which empowers them to cater to more customers across the continent at reduced cost.

Cold chain logistics also helps with sustainability practices on the continent.

It does this by reducing the transportation required to get goods around. It also reduces the impact of food production on the environment.

2. Embrace Technology

Technology is one of the most important tools to embrace when striving for an optimized supply chain.

With technology, agricultural businesses can have more productivity, visibility, and transparency across their supply chain.

Visibility ensures you have an overall view of your entire supply chain, while transparency ensures your supply chain operates responsibly. But whatever it is, data collection and communication is of the essence.

Examples of tech solutions that can improve agricultural supply chains across the continent are big data and tracking tools.

Big data allows farmers to collect and analyze data on crop yield, soil mapping, weather, and animal health. When done right, it gives the farmers insight into how to maximize the potential of their farms to produce more.

It also helps farmers identify good farm locations. With geofencing solutions, farmers can better track and control their livestock.

Factories can now identify good locations to build food processing plants to reduce the time it takes for farmers to reach them.

When applied to agricultural production, such as food processing plants, businesses on the continent need faster, better, and automated machines that can do more within shorter times.

3. Infrastructure Development

Poor infrastructure is a bane of Africa’s economic development. Countries across the continent are finding it difficult to maintain existing infrastructure while building new ones.

Despite the groundbreaking innovations agro businesses across the continent are going through, it is still very difficult for these businesses to navigate the challenges caused by the lack of infrastructure.

For instance, bad roads are still limiting the impact of transportation across the continent. With poor modes of transportation, there is only so much a business can do to speed up the delivery.

Then there is the issue of security, which is in poor supply across major areas of the continent. Poor security only adds to the cost of many agro-businesses and continues to the consumer.

Another big contributor to the cost of the supply chain is energy. Agro businesses increasingly have to source for their energy supply because of the energy deficit across the board.

However, when infrastructure is in place, it makes it much easier for the supply chain to operate. It will certainly reduce lead times and the cost. But the governments have to recognize the need for its development.

Agriculture is already a big industry; it contributes over 20% of its GDP in places like Kenya. 

Developing the modes of transportation and ensuring sufficient security helps the industry grow, and in turn, the economy can only do better.

It is really a win-win for the government and the businesses impacted.

4. Intra-continental Trading

Did you know it is easier for many businesses across different African countries to transact with other businesses outside of Africa than those within the continent?

This is because of the policies surrounding importing and exporting goods from other African countries.

Although the African Continental Free Trade Area, which had an initial 54 countries on board, is a step in the right direction, businesses are looking forward to its implementation and hoping it is not another false promise.

If done well, it will encourage near sourcing, allowing agro-businesses to buy and sell with neighbouring countries rather than relying on faraway countries for the necessary resources.

This will empower businesses to cut the time to acquire these resources, enabling them to produce much faster.

The agricultural supply chain in Africa needs to come to a point where local sourcing across the continent becomes a reality. It will help keep the cash flow home while helping more African businesses grow.


FAQs on Optimizing Agricultural Supply Chains Across Africa


1. Does Africa have any programs to support sustainable agriculture supply chains?

Yes, sustainable agriculture is a major focus of many African organisations. These include supporting ecologically beneficial techniques, expanding farmer financing availability, and advancing organic farming.

2. How can African governments support agricultural supply chains?

Governments have the power to finance infrastructure projects, encourage R&D, give farmers financial aid, and enact laws that foster the expansion of the agriculture industry.

3. How can customers help ensure that Africa’s agricultural supply networks are sustainable?

Customers can support fair trade practices, purchase locally produced goods, and cut down on food waste. Local communities gain from these initiatives, which also support the sustainability of agricultural supply networks.



The article highlights the strategies businesses across Africa can rely on when optimizing their agricultural supply chains. This strategies can help these businesses reach more customers across the continent while reduc